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Basics of Hiking | Part 1 | What to wear.

by Erika Vikander on June 08, 2017

by Ambassador Laurie DePhillips 

Basics of Hiking Part I: What to Wear

What you wear while hiking is one of the most important parts of making sure that you have a good experience. If you’ve read the book or seen the movie Wild you know what can happen with an ill-fitting pair of boots. If you have ever run long distances wearing the wrong fabrics, you know how uncomfortable that can be. The nature (pun intended) of your hike really determines what you should or should not wear.


This is where you want to spend some money. A good pair of shoes or boots can make or break your hike. I personally wear hiking shoes for hikes with little elevation gain or rocky terrain because they are lighter, and I wear boots for hiking the beautiful mountains of Colorado when my pack is a bit heavier and I need a more durable boot.

I recommend going to your favorite outdoor store and spending some time trying on several different types and brands. Talk to someone who can help you with what you should be looking for. They will know to ask you what type of hiking you will be doing, how much weight you plan to carry in your pack, whether you need full waterproofing, etc. There are so many options and things to consider when making a hiking boot investment that you want to make sure you get the right pair.

A few other things to consider when footwear shopping:

Bring the socks you will be wearing. I recommend wool hiking socks.

Try boots on towards the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen.

Walk around the store a lot, and try to walk up and down stairs if you can.

Ask about the return policy and if they have a wear and return option. A lot of outdoor stores want you to find the right pair and are willing to let you return or exchange boots that give you blisters or just aren’t the right fit. You don’t want to lose those toenails!


I am going to talk about what you should wear while hiking, but in full disclosure, I don’t always follow these rules.  On short and quick hikes, I often just grab what's comfortable and easy. 

Fabric plays an important role in your clothing choices. When you hike, you often sweat, but you could also encounter various temperature changes, especially in places like Colorado. You could be sweating and hot at lower elevations and encounter wind and snow at the top of your hike. If you wear cotton, it doesn’t dry quickly and pull moisture away which could make you very cold. The biggest rule I follow is to have lots of easy layering options. I do often wear cotton t-shirts but I also carry a merino wool layer and usually a rain jacket option. Depending on the elevation I plan to go to and the weather, I may also have a fleece layer (or more!).

As for the options on the bottom, it may depend on preference. The same consideration for material should play into what you wear. I often go for running tights or leggings, especially fleece lined options depending on weather. The look and movability is why I prefer leggings. There are some really great hiking pants and short options, and some hybrid options where you can zip off the bottom half of your pants into shorts. If you do wear shorts, keep an eye out for terrain that can scratch your legs or poison ivy. The best materials to look for are nylon or spandex to keep that moisture at bay. 



Outer Layers:

I talked a bit about layering already, but I always keep rain gear in my pack. The weather in Colorado can change instantly so I have learned the hard way to be prepared. I also always wear a hat when I hike to protect my face from the sun, especially at higher elevations. There are some options of hats to protect your neck as well, but I prefer a bandana. And ALWAYS sunscreen! I also like to keep a stocking hat and base gloves in my pack.

Hiking is one of my favorite activities. I love to go off of the grid for a bit and just enjoy what Mother Nature gives us. I’ve gone through some trial and error to know what to wear to ensure that my hike is the most enjoyable day and I hope my tips help you too. The next part of my hiking series I’ll show you what I keep in my day pack and what to consider bringing with you. I’ll also throw in some recipes of some good trail snacks.


Photos: ambassadors Katie Purdy and Shay Talley-Bailey


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